The past few weeks I've been tired. Exhausted. Unmotivated. Frustrated. Impatient. Overwhelmed.
So when my sister texted asking if the boys could come stay at her house for a few (four!) days I guess I should have jumped at the opportunity for some much needed R&R. A chance to sleep in, relax, get caught up. It should have sounded like a dream come true. Instead? I panicked.. Like--hold a brown bag over my mouth, hyperventilating panicked. FOUR days?? What would I do? What would they do? What if they missed me? What if they needed me? What if they got hurt? What if she didn't tuck them in at night the same way I did? The house would be so quiet! What in the world would Ella and I do? For four days?? The thought of those seemingly never-ending lonely, quiet days stretched out before me like the waves of the ocean-as far as I could possible see. My first instinct was, "Absolutely not! Are you crazy????"
But after my heart rate returned to a halfway normal rate, I semi-reluctantly stammered out a reply that must have sounded like an agreement to the plan. I knew they would have fun. I knew they would want to go. I knew I couldn't/shouldn't hold them back from something just because of my own fears. So I quickly packed up a bag and all too soon they were on their way, their faces full of smiles and hearts full of anticipation. Apparently I seemed to be the only one with reservations as Charlie told me right before he left "I'm kindof sad.. because I'm going to miss.. (insert mommy's heart swelling) the bunny." Oh.
The first day, I will admit, was hauntingly quiet. I paced around, trying to remember what all those things I always feel like I should be doing but never have the time to do, were? I know I spend hours looking around me, feeling a few steps behind in life, but what was I actually supposed to do to get caught up now that I had the chance? What were those tasks that I felt were so important to finish yesterday??
So I started to make a list. A list of things that are incredibly hard to get done around the house with all the kids needing/spilling/tattling something at the same time. I realized that as much as I missed them and felt like I didn't know what to do without them, I needed to take advantage of this time. Throughout the next four days I worked tirelessly to accomplish this and complete my list. And it went well. I feel guilty admitting how much I actually ended up enjoying this time. I thought I would be heartbroken and miserable the entire time they were gone. Instead it was nice. It was relaxing. We could come and go as we pleased more easily. Meal times didn't have to be so structured. My mind wasn't constantly revolving around bedtime starting at 4 in the afternoon, immediately after they got up from naps. The dirt wasn't getting tracked in all day. Cat food wasn't spilled all over the porch every single morning. Laundry didn't seem to pile up faster than snowflakes in a Nebraska blizzard like it normally does. And the dishes! I ran the dishwasher only once the entire time they were gone instead of once (at least!) a day. I could nap if I wanted to, but I found I was much less exhausted at the end of the day without the boys here.
As the days wore on I was excited to get them (I suppose), but I also felt myself growing a little nervous. I had had a taste of freedom. Of clean living. Of half the contents of our sandpile not being tracked into the house 30 times a day. Of chores that I did, not immediately being undone. Of projects being completed, quiet times that were actually quiet, impromptu outings with just JJ and Ella without 20 minutes of putting clothes on, going potty, finding shoes, bickering over seating arrangements. Of time to myself! I was a little hesitant.. My clean house that I worked so hard on was destinated to be ruined. The mess would be back. Would I be more frustrated now that I had a taste of the quiet life?
But as I expectantly walked into my sister's house (after the boys saw me from the backyard, looked at each other and obviously missing me very much immediately said, "Mom!!.... Can we finish our football game please??) I suddenly realized something. I realized that I had been missing something all week. Her home was bursting, literally bursting at the seams. Yes, with blankets, unfolded laundry, and dirty dishes. But also with so much more. With life, love, laughter, energy. With dirty faces and messy hair and colored on table tops. With happy children running in and out, climbing up and down, shouting and yelling and giggling. No, it wasn't as nice and neat and quiet as the home I had left. But it felt more like home than my freshly scrubbed floors and carefully disinfected counter tops did.
Her sink was full of dirty dishes-because she had been feeding my children. Her bathroom was full of wet towels--because she had been bathing them. Her floor was covered in crumbs-because my children were nourished there. Her living room was full of toys-because my children had been making memories there.
Yes, my floors at home were all freshly scrubbed, our winter clothes were finally all put away (don't judge..), I had 6 pints of fresh strawberry-rhubarb jam sitting on my counter and my dishes were all remarkably washed and put away. Our laundry was clean, folded and back in the closet, and I had had enough time to myself to get an entire book read. (Totally not trying to brag about all I got done. Okay.. maybe just a little.) Yet I realized in that brief moment of comparing our weeks and the resulting looks of our houses, that along with this precious time in life comes mess. Dirty shoes, spilled milk, scattered toys. And in the mere minutes the boys were home I already had clumps of dirt on the floor, supper crumbs all over the floor, laundry flung everywhere, dirt from a plant knocked over in the bathroom and of course cat foot spilled on the porch floor. But as hard as I had worked to get rid of those things the past week, I realized those messes didn't bother me near as much as I thought they might. Our house was full again. It was a home. There was loudness and laughing. There was excited voices and doors opening and shutting. There was energy and curiosity and love.
Soon enough the day will come when all this is gone. Soon enough they will grow up and head out on their own into the world. Soon enough their beds will be made-because they won't be here to sleep in them. Soon enough the floors will stay clean-because nobody will be around to walk on them. Soon enough I will have time to relax on the couch and read a book or watch a tv show-because no one will be here needing my attention. Soon enough this will all come. And I will miss it. So I will embrace the mess, the noise, the chaos, the dirt, because that is what brings life to our home. And I wouldn't want it any other way.